Concerns raised about potential abolition of Department of Children

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The potential abolition of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has prompted  Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon to write a letter to three party leaders to express his concerns.

It is not the first letter the Ombudsman has written to the party leaders – he previously outlined his concerns in a letter on 8 May – but felt it was necessary to send a second letter this week after more suggestions that the department will be abolished.

In his letters to Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan, the Ombudsman said that abolishing the department would be inconsistent with the State’s recognition of the importance of children’s rights, which is included in Article 42A of the Constitution.

It would also be contrary to recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2016 and regarded as a regressive measure by this UN Committee.

He said that the abolition would result in reduced visibility of children at a time when the OCO continue to receive serious complaints from children and young people in Ireland and it is clear that a focus on children’s rights, welfare and wellbeing needs to be sustained.

The letter highlights that the establishment of the Department in 2011 and of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs as a senior ministerial role occurred against the backdrop of reports that illustrated the State’s shameful treatment of children over many decades.

While public policy relating to children has improved since 2011, the rights of children within that framework remain fragile and have yet to bed down. Abolition of the DCYA will work against this, he argues.

In his letter to the three Leaders, Dr Muldoon said: “In light of these observations, and at a time when we need a new social contract that has human rights, equality and social justice at its core, I strongly encourage you to support retention of the DCYA as well as the role of Minister for Children and Youth Affairs as a senior ministerial role and member of the Cabinet.

“I have no doubt that abolition of the DCYA would have a damaging effect on children’s rights and welfare and I have grave concerns as to what this could mean for children, in particular those who are most vulnerable.”